Marquette’s First Basketball All-American Was a Marquette Law Student

Boops MullenMarquette’s men’s basketball program has produced a long line of All-American basketball players. The ranks of this elite group include such notable hoopsters as George Thompson, Maurice Lucas, Dwayne Wade, Jim Chones, Dean Meminger, Earl Tatum, and Butch Lee.

However, the first Marquette basketball All-American was 6’2” guard Edward “Boops” Mullen who played for the Hilltoppers (as the team was then known) from 1931 to 1934. Mullen was named as a first team selection to the Converse All-American team following the conclusion of his final varsity season, during which he had been enrolled as a first year Marquette law student.

Mullen was also the first (and to date only) Marquette law student to have played in the NBA or one of its predecessor leagues after receiving his law degree.

Mullen, born in 1913 in Fon du Lac, Wisconsin, enrolled in Marquette as a college freshman in the fall of 1930. The 6’2” Mullen starred on the freshman team and joined the varsity as a starter during the 1931-32 academic year.

Mullen played guard in an era where the players who filed that position were in the lineup primarily to “guard” their team’s basket and to prevent the other team’s top offensive players from scoring.

At Marquette, “Boops” became renowned as a defensive specialist in an era of college basketball in which scores were much lower than they are today. During Mullen’s first year on the varsity, the average combined score in Marquette games was only 57 points, and in only one of the team’s 19 games did either Marquette or its opponent exceed 50 points (and then only scored 51).

Mullen was certainly no offensive standout. For his Marquette varsity career he averaged only 3 points per game, but it was on the defensive side of the game that he excelled. He always guarded the opposing team’s top scorer, and he usually held that player to well below his average number of points.

During Mullen’s first varsity season (1931-32), the Marquette Hilltoppers compiled a record of 11-8, under the leadership of captain and Marquette law student (and future National Basketball League head coach) Frank Zummach. The next year, the team added sophomore scoring sensation, Ray Morstadt, the first Marquette player to average in double figures in scoring for an entire season, and its record improved to 14 wins and 3 losses.

In the fall of 1933, following his junior year of college, Mullen enrolled in the law school as a law freshman. At that time, prospective law students at Marquette were required to have attended college for just two years, and it was not at all uncommon for students in the college who were interested in careers in law to switch to the law school after their sophomore years.

In fact, Mullen was somewhat unusual in waiting until after his junior year of college to start law school. His undergraduate classmate and fellow native of the Fox Valley, future United States Senator Joe McCarthy, followed the more common path of enrolling in the law school after his second year at Marquette.

Mullen’s decision may have the better one, as the law school shortly thereafter (in 1934) raised the entry prerequisite to three years of college.

Enrolling in law school in no way adversely affected Mullen’s play during his final year as a college basketball player. Named captain of the team by head coach Bill Chandler, Mullen and Morstadt led Marquette to its highest win total in more than a decade as the 1933-34 team won 15 games while losing only four. Included in the wins were victories over Big 10 teams Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Ohio State and a season ending 21-20 nail biter against Notre Dame.

At the end of the season, Mullen was named to the Converse Yearbook’s First Team All-American team because of his stellar defensive play, while his teammate Ray Morstadt was named to the Literary Digest’s All American Third Team.

During his second and third year of law school, Mullen was no long eligible to play varsity basketball—in that era, players were limited to one year on the freshman team and three years on the varsity, no matter what their status at their universities. So instead of playing, Mullen coached the Marquette freshman basketball team and assisted Chandler and new assistant coach Frank Zummach with the varsity.

During his second year as a coach and his third year of law school (1935-36), Mullen also began his professional basketball career by signing a contract with the Oshkosh All-Stars.

The All-Stars had been founded in 1929 by an Oshkosh seed distributor and salesman named Lon Darlling. Until 1935, the team had played as an independent professional team (in an era when such teams were common, especially in the Midwest), but that year the All-Stars joined the Midwest Basketball Conference, a league that stretched from Minnesota to Pennsylvania and which was recognized as one of the top professional leagues in the United States.

Presumably, the decision to sign Mullen was part of an effort to upgrade the caliber of the team in the face of more challenging competition.

Mullen became the All-Stars captain and a fixture in the team’s starting line-up. Conference games were irregularly scheduled and accounted for only a small percentage of the games that the team actually played. Playing games throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest and often scheduling games with non-Wisconsin teams in different cities in the Fox Valley and central Wisconsin, the All-Stars compiled a combined record of 54 wins and only 12 losses during the 1935-36 and 1936-37 seasons.

After graduating from the law school in June of 1936 (and securing admission to the Wisconsin bar under the diploma privilege which had been extended to Marquette graduates in 1934), Mullen moved to Oshkosh to play basketball and practice law. He soon entered in a law partnership with Charles A. Bernard, a former member of the Wisconsin legislature and a 1930 graduate of the Marquette Law School. He did not, however, plan to abandon his basketball career.

In 1937, the Midwest Conference changed its name to the National Basketball League as part an effort to upgrade its quality of play and to establish itself as the premier professional basketball league in the United States. In this it largely succeeded, and in 1949, it would merge with the more recently established Basketball Association of America to form the modern National Basketball Association.

In its initial form, the11-team NBL was still centered in the Midwest with teams located in large and medium sized cities (Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Columbus, and Dayton) as well as in smaller communities like Oshkosh where basketball was extremely popular. (However, some of the small town teams were located on the periphery of major metropolitan areas, like Whiting, Indiana (Chicago) and Warren, Ohio (Cleveland).)

Many of the league’s franchises had begun as industry-sponsored teams, and several retained their original industrial sponsors, like the Ft. Wayne General Electrics and the two Akron teams, the Goodyear Wingfoots and the Firestone Non-Skids. Although the All-Stars were privately owned, the team was, like the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League, a community operation.

The All-Stars proved to be one of the rechristened league’s better teams. In 1937-38, Oshkosh recorded a league record of 12 wins and 2 losses, and an overall record of 62-12. (Higher salaries apparently dictated a significant larger number of games.) The team won the NBL’s Western Division title by a half game over the Whiting (Ind.) Ciesar All-Americans, and in the post-season playoffs, the All-Stars eliminated Whiting, two games to none, before losing the league title to the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots, two games to one.

Balancing a new law practice with such a heavy playing schedule was obviously a challenge for Mullen, but it appears that he did play in a significant number of the team’s games. He remained the team captain, and he managed to play in 9 of the team’s 14 regular season NBL games and in all 5 of its playoff tilts. As at Marquette, Mullen continued to specialize in playing shutdown defense, and his offensive contributions were minimal. In the 14 NBL regular season and playoff games in which he participated, he scored a total of only 24 points.

In the fall of 1938, Mullen married his Marquette girlfriend, Evangeline Gahn, Arts ’34, in Milwaukee, but the two began house-keeping in Oshkosh. The headline over the story in the Oshkosh newspaper announcing the couple’s engagement referred to Mullen as a “local lawyer” rather than as a professional basketball player (although the latter role was mentioned in the text of the story.)

During the 1938-39 season, the All-Stars again won the league’s Western Division championship, this time with a record of 17-11. Unfortunately, they also again lost the league championship to an Eastern Division team from Akron, this time the Firestone Non-Skids. In that year’s one-round of play-offs the All-Stars again fell just short, losing to the Non-Skids by a margin of three games to two.

In spite of a honeymoon that required him to miss some of the team’s early season non-league games, Mullen managed to play in 25 of the 28 regular season games, and actually boosted his scoring average in those games to 2.3 points per contest. In the play-offs, he again played in all five games, but managed only three free throws and no baskets in the entire series.

By the fall of 1939, the demands of his law practice and marriage were making it harder for Mullen to continue his basketball career. Moreover, as scores in professional basketball games began to rise, it may also have been the case that a 6’2” pure defensive specialist was not viewed as quite as valuable as before. In any event, Mullen began the 1939-40 season with the All-Stars but retired after playing in only seven league games.

Without Mullen, the All-Stars finished the season tied for first place in the Western Division with the Sheboygen Redskins, coached by Mullen’s former Marquette basketball teammate, fellow assistant coach, and fellow Marquette law student, Frank Zummach. In the first round of the play-offs Oshkosh defeated Sheboygan two games to one, but then lost in the finals for the second year in a row to Akron’s Firestone Non-Skids, again by three games to two, but this time after blowing a two games to none lead.

Mullen apparently planned to stay in Oshkosh to practice law, but with the outbreak of World War II, he entered the United States Navy, where he held the rank of Lt. j.g. After the war, instead of returning to Oshkosh, he relocated to Milwaukee where he practiced law and coached the Milwaukee Bright Spots, the city’s leading independent professional team.

When the National Basketball Association was created by merger of the NBL and the Basketball Association of America in 1949, there was much speculation that Mullen would return to the All-Stars as an assistant coach, but that issue was muted when the other NBA teams voted to drop Oshkosh from the list of teams in the new league.

Mullen also became increasingly involved in Marquette athletics after his return to Milwaukee. He became an active member of the M Club, an organization of former Marquette athletes created by the university to “provide support for Marquette athletics and to encourage camaraderie among its alumni letter winners.”

In 1950, Marquette president, Edward J. O’Donnell, S.J., appointed Mullen as the M Club representative on the Marquette Athletic Board, and from 1958 to 1960, Mullen served two one-year terms as the M Club’s president.

At some point, Mullen’s first marriage ended in divorce, and he later remarried. His second wife was Goldye Brossell, a native of Milwaukee and a graduate of the city’s now defunct Downer College. Mullen and his second wife moved to Washington, D.C., in 1964, apparently as a result of his taking a job with the Veterans Administration. While in D.C., the new Mrs. Mullen worked as a staff assistant in the social office of First Lady Lady Bird Johnson.

In 1968, the Mullens relocated to San Francisco where he continued to work for the Veterans Administration, and she became the food editor for the San Francisco Progress, a weekly newspaper. In 1979, she published a cookbook, The International Dessert Cookbook, which was widely reviewed.

In 1974, while living in San Francisco, Mullen was elected to Marquette Athletic Hall of Fame, and that same year, he was also selected by a unanimous vote as a member of Marquette’s all-time basketball team.

Mullen died on January 10, 1988, in San Francisco, where he is buried. Both of his wives lived into their mid-90. Evangeline Grah Mullen passed away in 2008, and Goldye Brossell Mullen died in 2009.


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The Link Between the Kennedy Assassination and the Onset of Beatlemania

This past November, there were seemingly endless efforts to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Kennedy.  Now (Feb. 9) we are in the midst of a similar celebration and reexamination of the 50th anniversary of arrival of the rock and roll band the Beatles in the United States and their initial appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Both of these efforts reflect the boundless enthusiasm of the Baby Boom generation for the celebration of the cultural landmarks of its childhood and adolescence.

These two events, occurring about 2 ½ months apart, are more closely linked than most people appreciate.  Had it none been for the tragic events of November 22, 1963, Beatlemania would probably have arrived in the United States even earlier than it did.

Looking back on the story of the Beatles, it is remarkable how slow the United States was to catch on to the significance and the appeal of the Fab Four.  Although 1963 was a breakout year for the band in England and Europe—selling over one million records that year and dominating the British pop music charts and well as attracting hysterical fans from throughout northern Europe—as late as November 1963, very few Americans had ever heard of the Beatles, and even fewer had heard their music.

Remarkably, the individuals who ran Capital Records, the American arm of the record company EMI which produced the Beatles’ records in the UK, were convinced that despite their popularity in the UK and Europe the Beatles were not suitable for the American market (as the Capital brass put it).  As a result, Capital refused to produce any Beatles records at all in the United States before finally agreeing to produce a token number (5,000) of copies of the band’s song, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in late December or early January.

Through the efforts of EMI, three of the group’s songs were released in the United States in 1963, but all appeared on minor labels, either the Chicago-based Vee-Jay (“Please, Please Me” and “From Me to You”) or Philadelphia’s Swan Records (“She Loves You”).  Although all three of these songs had been hit records in the UK and would become well known songs in the United States, none sold well in 1963, and none received more than a token amount of airplay on American radio.

However, for any American who was in Britain in 1963, it was apparent that the Beatles were no ordinary musical group, given their extraordinary popularity, especially with teenage girls.  American television impresario Ed Sullivan, whose “Ed Sullivan Show” on CBS-TV was a major American entertainment venue , happened to be in London in November when the Beatles were mobbed by throngs of young girls at Heathrow Airport following their return from a successful tour of Sweden.  Sullivan was stunned by the enthusiasm of the fans and later that month decided to book the unknown (in the U.S.) group on to his variety show in early February as a “novelty act.”

Of course, Ed Sullivan was not the only American who was aware of the Beatlemania phenomenon in the United Kingdom.  In its November 15, 1963 issue, Time Magazine profiled the new band and its legion of fans in a story entitled “The New Madness.”  Three days later, the nation’s highest rated network news program, NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report, closed out its half hour nightly news show with a four-minute story on the band and its fans.  The story was reported from the UK by veteran newsman, Edwin Newman, and while Newman’s report included brief snippets of the Beatles performing, its primary focus was on the seemingly hysterical reactions of their fans.  (The audio from Newman’s report, introduced by Chet Huntley, can be heard here.

At this point, most American news outlets realized that the Beatles and their fans were no ordinary story, even if it was still almost impossible to hear the band’s music in the United States.  Newsweek, Life Magazine, and the New York Times Sunday Magazine all rushed stories into print, and Jack Paar, host of NBC’s Tonight Show,  acquired the rights to a clip of the Beatles performing, which he planned to “show as a joke.”

CBS News, playing catch-up, prepared an extended story on the Beatles phenomenon by having London-based correspondent Alan Kendrick report on his first-hand analysis of the British fascination with this new musical combo.

Like NBC’s Newman, Kendrick was generally disparaging in regard to the band’s musical abilities and focused instead on the inexplicable zeal and compulsive screaming of the group’s teenage female fans.   (Today, Kendrick’s report seems more like a documentary on what it meant to be middle-aged and clueless in 1964.  It can be viewed here.

On Thursday, November 22, CBS used its morning shows to hype Kendrick’s report which was scheduled to air later that day on the Evening News with Walter Cronkite.  However, the tragic events in Dallas that afternoon led the network to drop plans for the Beatles story altogether.

In fact, just as the onslaught of publicity about the Beatles and Beatlemania was raising the curiosity of Americans, the president’s untimely death abruptly brought stories about the young band from Britain with the funny haircuts to a halt.  Presumably, had it not been for the assassination, the explosion in news coverage pertaining to the Beatles would have produced enough curiosity to encourage Capital Records to reverse course and start issuing Beatle records in the United States.

Thanks to the assassination, Capital Records had no reason to reconsider its policy toward the Beatles.  However, 18 days later, something remarkable happened.  On December 10, 1963, with no particular fanfare, CBS finally ran its Beatles story on the evening news.

One of the viewers who watched the news that night was 15 year old baby-boomer Marsha Albert (b. 1949), a high school student from Chevy Chase, Maryland.  Albert ignored the critical, dismissive tone of Kendrick’s report, but was enraptured by the musical clips it contained.

The next day, she called her favorite disc jockey,  Carroll James of WWDC-AM radio in the District of Columbia, and demanded that James start playing Beatle songs on his show.  Impressed by her passion, and aware of the popularity of the Beatles in Britain, James convinced a friend who was a British Airways flight attendant to purchase him a copy of the new Beatle record, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” when she was next in the UK.  James acquired the record, and to help call attention to the song, announced that Beatle fan Marsha Albert would join him in the studio to introduce the record to his audience.

The rest, as they say, is history.

James first played the song on December 17, and then began playing it over and over once the switchboard lit up with calls demanding to hear the song again.  A week later, radio stations all over the United States were playing Beatle songs, if they could find them.  Capital Records pushed the release date of the American version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (with “I Saw Her Standing There” on the flip side) to the day after Christmas, and by December 29, over a quarter million copies of the two-sided record had been sold.

By mid-January, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 chart that listed the supposedly most popular songs in the United States.  By the time that the band arrived in the United States on February 7, that song was at the top of the charts, followed closely by three other Beatle songs, “She Loves You,” “Please, Please Me,” and “I Saw Her Standing There.”

On the evening of February 9, Ed Sullivan looked like a genius by having snagged the world’s most popular band for his show for that night and the next two Sundays.  On New Year’s Day, most Americans had still not heard of the Beatles.  Forty days later, their presence on Sullivan’s show attracted an audience estimated to be in excess of 74 million people, the largest audience in television history.

The Beatles’ 1964 turned out to be the greatest year ever for a singer or musical group in the history of American music.  Nineteen Beatle songs made it into the Billboard top 100 singles list between January 1 and December 31.  All 19 reached #35 or higher, 13 made it into the top 12 and 11 in the top 10, while 6 songs (“I Want to Hold Your Hand,”  “She Loves You,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Love Me Do,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” and “I Feel  Fine”) made it to #1.

Between February 1 and May 9, a Beatle song was ranked #1 on the chart every week.  On May 16, the top spot went to Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly,” but the Beatles were back on top again by the end of May.  Although they were not as dominant in the second half of the year as they were in the first, the year ended with a Beatle song (“I Feel Fine”) at the top of the charts.

The number of the Beatles #1 hits would have been greater but for the fact that so many songs were released simultaneously with each other.  “Twist and Shout,” one of the band’s most successful songs and the rare Beatle song not written by the members of the band, peaked at #2 because it was released at the time when “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” were still at the top of the chart.  “Please, Please Me” met a similar fate, peaking at #3.  In March of 1964, those four songs simultaneously occupied slots #1 to #4 on the Billboard Chart.

As someone who turned age 12 during the middle of 1964, I remember that listening to music on the radio seemed largely about listening to the Beatles hits with which we were already familiar being played over and over while waiting for the next new Beatle song to air.

On the album charts (in an era still dominated by the two-song “45’s”), the Beatles Capital Records album, “Meet the Beatles,” debuted on the charts on February 1; reached #3 a week later; and then jumped to #1 the following week, where it remained for 11 weeks.  Two weeks later, it was accompanied at #2 by the Vee-Jay album, “Introducing the Beatles.”  On May 2, both of these albums were surpassed by the group’s second Capital album, entitled “The Beatle’s Second Album” which remained at the top of the charts for five weeks.  For June and most of July albums by other performers topped the chart, but on July 31, the new Beatles album, “A Hard Day’s Night” returned to the #1 position and remained there for 14 weeks.

The Kennedy assassination clearly delayed the onset of Beatlemania in the United States, but neither that sad event, nor anything else, could have prevented John, Paul, George and Ringo from permanently transforming the popular music scene in the United States.

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Marquette Law Professor and CAS Arbitrator Matt Mitten Helps Resolve First Legal Dispute at the Sochi Winter Olympics


Professor Matt Mitten was one of three members of a Court of Arbitration for Sport panel that was called upon to resolve the first legal dispute to arise at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Along with fellow arbitrators Patrick Lafranchi of Switzerland and Robert Decary of Canada, Professor Mitten denied the claim of Austrian skier Daniela Bauer that she had been improperly excluded from the Austrian Olympic team.

The decision was handed down in Sochi. Bauer filed her claim on February 2, and the matter was heard by the Ad Hoc panel on the evening of February 3, with a final decision handed down at 1 p.m. (local time) on February 4.

A full account of the proceedings can be found here.

Continue ReadingMarquette Law Professor and CAS Arbitrator Matt Mitten Helps Resolve First Legal Dispute at the Sochi Winter Olympics